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ReachOutRCA Inspires Artists and Designers of the Future

ReachOutRCA. the College's outreach programme for secondary schools, found a perfect platform for sharing creative thinking and making with young people in this year's graduate show. During Show 2015, eight practitioners created a series of dynamic workshops for groups of students from seven schools, which were devised to build confidence and curiosity, while presenting new ways of approaching art and design. 

At the Kensington Show, Design Interactions students Ted Hunt and Peter Hudson led workshops with students from Ernest Bevin College and Ashcroft Technology Academy, exploring the role of design in speculating about the future. These workshops were inspired by Design Interactions alumni Chris Woebken and Elliott Montgomery's Extrapolation Factory.

Each session began with a discussion around definitions of design and different design methodologies before the group explored the Design Interactions show together. Inspired by the work on display, the students then created imaginative objects based on fictional future scenarios. Their creations included: a three-way powered plane solving the problem of flying solar-powered during the night, a utility belt for robotic nurses and Techno Run, a speculative system for home schooling physical education. Year 9 student Iman said, ‘I loved the part where we had to exhibit our creations and talk about them. The whole workshop was amazing!’

History of Design students Sophie Foan and Derya Adiyaman led workshops exploring exhibition design with students from Holland Park School and Villiers High School. Each day-long workshop began with a discussion of innovative approaches to exhibition design, considering exhibitions such as Disobedient Objects, at the V&A in 2014. This was followed by a discussion of approaches to exhibition design and the ways in which objects can be used to convey different stories and ideas.

The group then visited the Design Products show and in pairs selected an object on which to base their own exhibition design and concept. The participants were provided with an ‘Investigation Kit’, which included worksheets and drawing exercises, questions about the object, and investigative tools such as a magnifying glass and tape measure. 

From their exploration of the displays the students then created models for their own exhibitions. One group imagined a pack away exhibition, inspired by Miska Kuntsi’s foldaway furniture, while another focused on Yurii Kasao’s Candlelight Tea Set, and conceived of an outdoor exhibition within a large picnic tent. One participant, Ikhra, aged 17, said ‘the exhibition made me want to have bigger ambitions’, whereas Samuel, aged 12, explained ‘I can now think about exhibitions in a more technical way.’  

At the Battersea Show, Jewellery & Metal students Cara George and Katharina Dettar ran a workshop with twelve Year 9 students from Burntwood School. This workshop explored questions of why we wear jewellery, as well as considering the processes and materials used to create the work in the show. In pairs, the students created their own jewellery from a range of materials, which they then gave to their partner. For the RCA students, the workshops offered a unique opportunity to share and expand their own practices. Discussing their experience, the workshop leaders George and Dettar said: ‘We were so impressed by the curiosity and ingenious outcomes produced by the students, who embraced new ways of working within the context of the graduation show.’

Also in Battersea, responding to the Sculpture show, were two workshops by Critical Writing in Art & Design students Izabella Scott and Oscar Gaynor with Year 12 students from the Grey Coat Hospital School and Year 8 students from Elmgreen School. These workshops were designed to make each pupil think critically about the relation of text to artworks. Beginning with a game of consequences, the workshops culminated with the creation of concrete poetry posters made from coloured vinyl, Letraset, a range of alphabets sourced from typography books, colourful stamps and stickers. Each student exhibited their poem beside the related artwork, creating a ‘One Minute Sculpture’ with their bodies. Discussing the workshop, one participant Dylan said, ‘I now realise that art doesn't necessarily need to have a single meaning, it can be interpreted in many different ways.’ 

These workshops were coordinated by ReachOutRCA the College’s outreach programme, which began in 2005 as a graduate-led initiative to make links between secondary schools and the RCA community. The programme now includes around 40 workshops each year as well as projects with partners including Art on the Underground, the Crafts Council and Frieze Foundation.

Documentation of the ReachOutRCA workshops at Show 2015 can be found on the Showzine blog.